NPR plans buyouts to cut staff 10 percent

New York Times News ServiceSeptember 16, 2013 

In an effort to balance its budget, NPR said Friday that it would try to reduce its staff about 10 percent through voluntary buyouts.

NPR said it plans to share more information about the buy outs with staff members this week.

The announcement was depicted as one of the most substantial staff cutbacks in the history of the public radio organization. NPR would not comment on whether it would resort to layoffs if it did not achieve the desired reductions through buyouts.

An email Friday to NPR employees said the buyout offers were part of a strategy to "eliminate the deficit and lower ongoing expenses" and that the strategy "also includes investments in our digital future and revenue generating initiatives such as branded events."

The announcement came about two weeks before the end of NPR's fiscal year. The organization has run a deficit of about $6 million this year; about the same amount, $6.1 million, is expected in the fiscal year that will begin on Oct. 1. The buyouts and other measures are intended to help NPR break even in the fiscal year that begins in October 2014.

The plans were prepared by a team led by NPR's chief executive, Gary E. Knell, who announced last month

that he would be leaving to take over the National Geographic Society. At the time of the announcement, he said he hoped to present a balanced-budget plan to the NPR board before his departure. The board approved the plan on Thursday.

The board also selected an interim chief executive from within its ranks, Paul G. Haaga Jr. Haaga, a lawyer who has served on the NPR board since 2011, will succeed Knell on Sept. 30 and remain in charge until a permanent chief executive is named.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead one of the world's leading providers of news, music and cultural programming on an interim basis, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the board and senior leadership team to help this great organization build on its success," Haaga said in a statement Friday.

The organization says it has about 840 full-time and part-time employees. The last significant cutbacks came in late 2008, when about 8 percent of the staff was laid off. NPR has hired a sizable number of journalists and technicians since then, many of whom work for its expanding online ventures like NPR.org and its apps.

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